Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Before you start junking all your Google™ stuff ...

Full disclosure: Blogger, of course, is a service provided by Google. So is AdSense. I also have a couple of Gmail accounts, and use Google's Calendar app, which coordinates with my Android smartphone's agenda app. And other things. Right now, I'm almost Google's Siamese twin.

So how should I feel about this recent message from LifeNews?

Google Bans Ads From Pregnancy Centers After Lobbying From “Pro-Choice” NARAL

by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | | 4/28/14 4:53 PM

Google has banned ads from pro-life pregnancy centers that offer women and their unborn children abortion alternatives. The decision came after extensive lobbying from a national “pro-choice” group, NARAL, that appears to favor just one choice, abortion. 
Upset that pregnancy centers were allowed to bid on the keyword “abortion clinics,” along with facilities that kill unborn children in abortions, NARAL launched a national campaign to complain to Google. Now, the national search engine company has banned the ads.
According to NARAL, people using Google to search for “abortion clinics” got ads advertising the crisis pregnancy centers about 79 percent of the time — which cuts into the profit margins of abortion clinics.

So now many of my colleagues in the Catholic blogosphere are calling for a boycott of Google — or, at least, emails of protests. Some are even vowing to shed themselves of Android phones and tablets. Me? As I said about the various Chick-fil-A flaps, I'm not really one to man the barricades; the only boycott I've maintained successfully so far is against Starbucks. (And, believe me, it hurts — I do love their Fr'appucinos. *sigh*)

So what are the facts of the matter?
Never having seen an AdSense ad for a crisis pregnancy center, I can't testify that they were all honest and aboveboard. I do know there have been crisis pregnancy centers that were little more than booths equipped with EPT kits and "counselors" dedicated to shaming young women out of abortions; I seriously doubt there were ever more than a small handful, let alone that they were representative of crisis pregnancy centers in general, and I can't assert of my own knowledge that any still exist. At the same time, "Google doesn't allow misleading or scientifically unverifiable claims in ads," presumably the grounds on which the ads were removed, which leaves me wondering — how do they do their fact-checking?

Now, for NARAL and Planned Parenthood to call anyone a liar is like Bill Clinton throwing a nutty about philanderers; to them, the truth is whatever serves their agenda, regardless of whether it conforms to reality. However, the pro-life camp has its share of people who take attitudes that lean strongly towards consequentialism, whether or not they actually go so far as to say "the end justifies the means". Put another way: they lie, and are willing to justify lying in a good cause.

Just over three years ago, the "Catholic circular firing squad" started shooting in full automatic mode over the question of whether Lila Rose of LiveAction was justified in her entrapment tactics, with several notables, including Joseph Bottum, Pia de Solenni, John Zmirak and Peter Kreeft, all arguing that the "lying is always wrong" position verges into Pharisaic, if not Kantian, legalism. (Bottum, engaging in polysyllabic nastiness, called Christopher Tollefson's contrary argument "ultracrepidarian" ... an adjective that, surprisingly, I had to look up.) I ended up siding with Dawn Eden, Carolyn Moynihan and Mark Shea: Even if, like me, you could construct a "just lie doctrine" comparable to the Catholic "just war" doctrine, it would be essentially defensive in nature. But more to the point:

In our eagerness to morally protect a tactic that seems to be working in our favor, we’re finessing Scripture, Tradition and the Catechism [of the Catholic Church] to death. It reminds me very much of the tactics the defense pursued in the Rodney King police-brutality trial: By stopping the damning videotape at various points during the replay, the lawyers created brilliant alternative explanations for certain events that, when taken together, succeeded in—if you’ll pardon the expression—turning black into white.

That’s how the culture of death works: it rationalizes the use of intrinsically evil methods to pursue good ends. It says to us, “Evil x isn’t as bad as evil y,” and asks us to ignore the fact that x is still evil. It plays with definitions; it provides examples that play on our emotions; it cites Scripture out of the context of salvation history. It appears to say to us, “Give us this ha’porth of tar, and we will save the ship,” when in fact it really says, “All the kingdoms of the earth will be yours, if only you fall on your face and worship me” (cf. Mt 4:9). ("Lies and Lila: Caesar's wife", Outside the Asylum, Feb. 24, 2011).

So while I have some suspicion that the people who run Google are in the main progressives whose fact-checking skills may be biased leftward, I have no firm grounds on which to base a judgment that they're "in bed" with Planned Parenthood and NARAL to the extent of conspiring to shut down pro-life crisis pregnancy centers. I'm not boycotting Google just yet, just as I haven't abandoned Firefox yet. It's gonna take more than this to convince me they're pro-death ... so far, all I can tell is that they're pro-dollar.

Moreover, I submit that this is a further reason pro-life actors should adhere to a policy of strict, uncompromising honesty: sooner or later, liars get caught out. Planned Barrenhood and NARAL are losing ground precisely because of this fact — denial, spin and euphemisms only work for so long. Leave the lying to those whose careers and industry depend on it.